When assessing the impact of a potential new development on its surroundings, and during the design process, landscape architects and landscape officers often refer to Landscape Character Assessments. They provide an insight into which elements make the landscape unique, valued, which features should be considered for retention, and how landscapes can be enhanced through sympathetic design and planting. They describe how geology, landform and humanity have combined to shape the landscape through time, including the impact of industry, agriculture, watercourses, buildings and cultural resources. They typically also cover the ecological, archaeological, and geological designations to be found there, and aim to explain how biodiversity, habitats and landscape are interconnected in those unique places.
Natural England has produced a series of 159 Landscape Character Area profiles which divide England into areas which have a common landscape typology, often based on the local geology. These can cover areas of up to 1400 square miles and tend to provide a large-scale overview so we also look for assessments which cover a smaller, more concentrated area. Local authorities have been commissioning more localised landscape character assessments over the past 15 years to inform their local plans, covering various scales reflecting the size of the authority, the importance of the landscape (reflected in the scope of landscape designations) and the level of development pressure. Some cover National Parks or Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, others may just cover the landscape surrounding a community which has put together a comprehensive Neighbourhood Plan.
There are also reports which focus on a particular angle, for example Capacity Studies which look more particularly on the capacity of a landscape to absorb development, or Green Infrastructure and Ecosystem Services studies which assess the natural capital of a landscape.
In 2010 a database was put together detailing the available Landscape Character Assessments for the use of Landscape Institute members, but this has now become out of date and many of the links are inactive. After ACD staff attended a Landscape Institute webinar we signed up to a project co-ordinated by Charlotte Williams on behalf of the Landscape Institute to review the available assessments and update the database. There are around a dozen volunteers from landscape practices around the country working on this with the aim of creating a more user-friendly database for members to use.
ACD Environmental offer a range of services including landscape character assessments, landscape and visual impact assessments and landscape appraisals, contact us today for a quote.